Tuesday 31 May 2011

Levitation: Demos 1989-1991

As promised about 100 years ago, here's some more aural yumminess from everyone's favourite IndiePopProg rockers, Levitation.

Following on from the non album tracks I posted a while ago, here are some demos that were circulated as a limited edition fan club release back in the day. The tunes are from 1989-1991 and feature some stuff that made it on to their superb debut album, their EPs and a tune or two that slipped down the cracks. There's some fascinating stuff on here that you should hear. Here's the bumf from the original cassette:

“This is a selection of 8 Track recordings made between 1989-1991 and mixed especially for this limited edition of 800 cassettes.

‘Nadine’, ‘Smile’ and ‘Rosemary Jones’ were subsequently recorded in Oct 90 and appeared on the ‘Coppella’ EP as the first official Levitation release on Ultimate

The completed version of ‘Firefly’ first appeared on the ‘Ever After’ EP recorded in May 1991. A further version of ‘Smile’ and definitive versions of ‘Arcs of Light and Dew’, ‘World Around’, ‘Embedded’ and ‘Coterie’ can be heard on Levitations first album ‘Need For Not’ released by Rough Trade in May ’92. The instrumental ‘Jay’ can only be found on the Rough Trade single ‘World Around’ released prior to ‘Need for Not’

‘Origins’, ‘Mantra’ and ‘Day by Day’ appear for the first time on this cassette

Levitation are:
Terry Bickers: Vocals, Guitar
David Francolini: Drums
Christian Hayes: Guitar
Laurence O’Keefe: Bass , Vocals
Robert White: Keyboards, Guitar, Vocals”

I’ve already mentioned how ace this band really were. One of the great ‘lost’ bands of the 90’s. My advice to you, boys and girls is - download, turn your Phasers and Chorus Pedals up to ‘EnormoFlange’ and wallow in the (almost) contemporary Psychedelia of Levitation.

(Thanks again to the good people of the Spiritualized message board for pointing me in the right direction...)



Sorry I'm late...

…but the dog ate my homework.

I was going to title this post “Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated”, but:
a. It’s a misquote
b. Every blogger who doesn’t post for a day or two starts up again with a post that reads “Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated”

So I shan’t. Suffice to say the merry month of May was less than merry. And I’m not even sure it was a whole month. It’s been insanely busy here at Rushbo Towers, with just about time enough for the occasional glance at a blog or two between going to see Pop concerts (The Mighty Rush!!) external and internal verification (as much fun as it sounds), squeezing coursework out of schoolchildren (ditto), attending a Guitar recital featuring the 9 year old Rushbo Jr (gig of the year by a country mile) and the job interview from Hell. I’m better now. It’s half term, I’m still ploughing through small childrens’ coursework, but I have a cool beer to my side and a PIL ticket for tomorrow in my pocket, so all is well. I’m catching up with everyone, so the usual suspects can expect something ‘witty’ in their inboxes soon. Thanks to everyone who expressed concern at my absence – I wish the truth was more interesting that it is….

To make up, here's a bumper crop of lovliness and a new 'Rushbo's Guide' too. My gift to you for your patience.

Right…teabreak over – back on your heads.


John Martyn: Bologna, Italy, 18 05 1977

Yeah yeah, I know...'This isn't Post Punk or PowerPop' you're saying (whilst sneering, probably), but it is a collection of good tunes, without a doubt.

John Martyn. What can I say? A man who was capable of drinking Keith Moon under the table and matching his hellraising antics busted TV for busted TV, but also capable of writing the most gossamer fine music and heartbreakingly emotional lyrics. A man who still got off his butt and played live even when he was wracked with a life-threatening illness. He had his leg amputated. He carried on. In an era when 'Rock Stars' (note the ironic quote marks and capital letters, there) cancel entire tours because their favourite Tee Shirt is still in the wash, he was the real deal. And this recording proves that in spades...and clubs...and hearts...and the other lot.

Here's Mr Martyn recorded at the Antoniano Theatre in Bologna (sounds posh, eh readers?). It's a solo gig with John alternating between folky acoustic Guitar tunes and mindbending echoplex freakouts. You love it already, don't you? Lot's of nice banter (I could be wrong, but some strong liquor or similar may have been imbibed by the artist) and plenty of references to the intense heat. In spite of that, it's an incredible performance and a superb setlist. 'Spencer The Rover' is a standout. Tears of joy are compulsory.

I was lucky enough to see him a couple of times in the 80s - the second gig was one of the most bizarre concert experiences I have ever had. It was at the late, lamented Ronnie Scott's Club in Birmingham - sadly it's now a Pole dancing joint - one of about seven in a square mile in the town centre. What that says about my beloved city, I don't really wanna think about. Anyhoo, John was in high demand, as when I arrived I was amazed to find that the only seats left were actually at a table on the stage. Yep, ON the stage. I was close enough to hear the Bassists thoughts. Thankfully, the monitor mix was great (as I was behind the PA) and the performance was fantastic, if slightly intimidating.

He was awarded the OBE in the New Years Honours list of 2009. Not good enough. This man should have been crowned the King of Scotland. Lairy, contrary, mercurial and brilliant. We should be grateful to have been in his orbit.

Rain Parade: London, Riverside Studios, 19 05 1985

More Rain Parade. I'm spoiling you.

Last gig of the tour and far from weary, this is a great soundboard recording. I'm not sure how much more of me gushing about how stunning RP were you can take, so I'll keep it short and sweet. This is an essential download. So there.

...completeists, check out the Neil Young cover that finishes the set....

Sunday 8 May 2011

Evan Johansen: Nothing Hurts Now

Sometimes you find beauty in unexpected places. Please listen to this.
Evan Johansen/Magnet - 'Nothing Hurts Now' from the album 'Quiet and Still' 

Wednesday 4 May 2011

Monkees: Budokan Hall, Japan, October 4th 1968

Now what right minded, free thinking individual doesn't like The Monkees? What started off as a pretty cynical exercise in creating an American Beatles circa 'Help!' turned into a cultural phenomenon. And a pretty hot live act, too. We all know the story don't we?..and all the apocryphal stuff (Charlie Manson, Stephen Stills' teeth blah blah blah) but the music gets forgotten sometimes, which is a shame. Regardless of who played on the records, they’re still great and they’ve lasted the test of time remarkably well. Whether or not they’re worth seeing in 2011, I’m not sure - maybe someone can enlighten me on that one.

On to the recording…it’s 1968 and our four loveable moptops (US Division) are inevitably playing the Budokan in Japan. They’re also being filmed for a TV special. Sadly, the video seems to have vanished which is a goddamn tragedy, but the audio is still intact – complete with the enthusiastic interjections of a couple of Japanese presenters. It won’t impair your enjoyment, Monkeefans. The recording quality is pretty decent for such an aged show – it’s a bit crunchy in parts, but generally it’s fine and dandy. Check out the sample video below.

(Last Train To Clarksville)

What is special about this recording is that it sees the band as a ‘real band’. That means that they play (almost) everything themselves. Apparently Davy Jones was taught to play the Bass from scratch, which shows real character. He does a bang up job, playing when Peter Tork switches to Organ, Guitar etc. They sound like a garage band. This is a good thing. They’re helped out by their support act (The Floral) on three tracks, but other than that, it’s Monkees all the way. Smart.

Contextually, this was almost the last throw of the dice for the band. Tork was to leave the band a few months after this gig and the band was still licking it’s wounds after the kicking that ‘Head’ got. We all love it now don’t we? The key word in that last sentence is the word ‘now’. So the guys we’re pretty fired up and deliver a great, broad show including all the hits, some solo spots and a tasty rarity or two. I could have lived without ‘Peter Percival Pattersons Pet Pig Porky’ (and the accompanying mains hum), but hey, watchyagonnado? It was the 60’s after all.

This is a great show and a fascinating curio from a different world.

Japan 1968

Tuesday 3 May 2011

L!bido: Non Album Tracks

Norway. Famous for Death Metal, Pickled Herring, Ibsen, Greig and Aha. And lots of other stuff too, I’m sure. What it’s not famous for is PowerPop. But what have we here…?

I know very little biographical detail about this band, other than they featured Even Johansen who is a big man on the Norwegian Music circuit nowadays, but this is from 1997 when he was the leading light in this short lived but sterling band.

My introduction to the band was when a record company rep thrust an EP into my hand saying ‘Play this….it sounds exactly like the Posies’. So I played it. ‘Exactly’…is a little way off, but that combination of melodic vocals, great songwriting and feral guitars was close enough to pique my interest. As far as I know, they released four EPs and an album – the beautifully named ‘Killing Some Dead Time’. Interested parties can pick them up for pennies (literately) on the InterWeb. I was pleased to see that the aforementioned album is still available via Amazon for download, so I ain’t gonna post that here. Instead, here are the non-album tracks from the EPs. They’re a mixed bunch (including a surprisingly tender version of ‘Annie’s Song’ – yeah, that one). Quality veers from really great (‘Hurry Slowly’) to the out and out weird (a version of ‘Blow’ that sounds like it was recorded at 16rpm…), but let’s face it, it ain’t gonna cost ya nothin’ to try it out, is it…?

(Blow', from the album 'Killing Some Dead Time')

This is posted as a bit of an hors d'oeuvre….the album is really where it’s at and features some blistering Pop-Rock stuff in that lovely mid 90’s, just post-Grunge style we’ve (well, maybe just me then…) come to know and love. Highly recommended for fans of early TFC, Posies, Replacements…you know –that lot.

Give ‘em a chance. It’ll be another bullet in yer Smug, RockSnob arsenal.

Oh, by the way, Googlesearching for the bands name is quite an eye-opener…..

Oh and by the way again - to avoid spam (of the most unsavoury nature...) I've replaced the the 'i' in the bands name with an '!'

HERE'S the album at 'I Hate The 90s'

Monday 2 May 2011


A quick, multi purpose post...

First and foremost, I need to bring your attention to the mighty Stackridge. Veterans of a million gigs, the first band ever (that's EVER!) to play the Glastonbury Festival and purveyors of fine Pop for many, many years. They were The Korgis for a bit as well - you know, 'Everyones Got To Learn Sometime'...yeah - them. I have to say that their seventies output is pretty amazing, but the stuff that I'm enjoying at the moment is their most recent material. Crazy eh...how many bands are writing better stuff now than 'back in the day'? Anyhoo, here's my faverave tune, the frankly amazing 'Something about the Beatles'

Now how great is that? 

So go here  to get the lowdown on the band and then go here to buy tons of stuff. 

Secondly (here comes the shameless plug, you may need to avert your gaze, briefly) my Beat Combo, 'The Valuable Fools' are supporting 'em this Thursday (5th) in the throbbing heart of Rock 'n' Roll...Bilston. Yeah, I'll be rattling the traps (quite badly) and singing (acceptably), tunes from our two and a half albums. Come along and laugh and point at a man who should have jacked it all in years ago. I'm really selling this gig aren't I? Stackridge are ace live, I kid you not. We're quite good too...really.

And third and lastly, a big welcome to my Uncle Martin who finally found my blog and suggested I post some Stackridge. So here it is.

It's bloody hell week at work, so there are a couple of things scheduled and that's yer lot until this time next week. Miss me, won't you...?

Sunday 1 May 2011

Levitation: EP Tracks

"You can be progressive without being pompous. It sounds like a cliché but I don't care - we are a progressive band and we're in the here and now." - Terry Bickers interviewed by Steve Sutherland Melody Maker April 27, 1991.

As a long time, die-hard, card carrying, 100%, gold plated, 10 year guaranteed Church uber-fan, I had a bit of a problem with The House Of Love. Like a lot of my peers, I believed that HOL mainman Guy Chadwick should be tortured slowly until he revealed (preferably on live TV, satellite broadcast to the entire world) that he nicked all his ideas from Steve Kilbey. Well, I’ve mellowed considerably since then and turned into quite a fan of the HOL, especially the much maligned ‘Fontana’ album. And the star of that album is Mr Terry Bickers…the leading light of Levitation.

After an ‘acrimonious departure’ (ha!...I love that expression – it covers a multitude of sins) from The House Of Love, Our Terry formed Levitation. During his time in HOL, Terry had established a reputation as being a bit of an ‘eccentric’ and was lampooned in the Music comics. A bit of a shame really, as he’s quite a talent and all that ‘Mad Tezza’ stuff diverted attention from his obvious skill as a geetar slinger par excellence. Levitation showed ‘em all how stupid and facile they were. Mr B assembled a world beating band and released some outstanding music, starting with the ‘Coppelia’ EP. Not only does he excel as a Guitarist, his voice isn’t bad either. The EP features four neatly controlled pieces of Indie-Pop-Prog. I was excited. Another two EPs and an album followed, all of which hinted (and occasionally shouted) at greatness.


('Even When Your Eyes Are Open'
their first release on Chrysalis)

Levitation combined the coolest of influences...a bit of Krautrock, a little Psychedelia, a dash of indie-schmindie, a healthy helping of Prog and some of that Post-Punk, 60's inspired stuff that we all know and love.

They toured (often supporting the most unlikely of bands…The Fall, anyone?) and got signed to A Major Label. Guess what happened next…? Yep, After playing a bad-tempered fifty-minute set at Tufnell Park Dome in north London on May 14, 1993, where the band were co-headlining with Eat, Terry threw his toys out of the pram and announced his intentions to leave. Among his onstage comments and announcements were "No corporation is going to stop us, gas is our business, cars are our business, the music business is our business.." (paraphrasing Killing Joke's track Age Of Greed); "This is the last time you'll see me for a bit"; and (most infamously) "Levitation are a lost cause as far as I can tell. We've completely lost it haven't we? Haven't we?" That put a bit of a damper on the proceedings and Mr B made a sharp exit from the band he’d formed. Years later, he admitted to being incredibly hasty in his proclamation. The band soldered on without him, finishing off the album they were working on at the time – ‘Meanwhile Gardens’. Sadly, without the ‘star’, the band folded, leaving behind some unfulfilled promise and a whole bunch of great tunes. I guess you really can’t catch lightning in a bottle…

For your delectation and education, this is the first of four Levitation posts. As the album is still available for official download, I'm concentrating on the rarer material.  This first post rounds up all the non-album EP tracks and some other bits and pieces. The subsequent three will be the original version of ‘Meanwhile Gardens’ with Bickers on vocals (his contributions were wiped and replaced with those of new frontman Steve Ludwin when the album was finally released in Australia only), demos for the highly recommended 'Need For Not' album and a storming live set from Reading University in Feb '92. I suggest you grab 'em all.

But first of all, let’s bask in the short lived but solar brilliance of Levitation…

Levitation: Non album tracks

(a MASSIVE thank you to the good people of the Spiritualized forum for putting some stuff up for D/L and pointing me in the right direction